I forget now where I heard about the museum in Takayama devoted to Art Nouveau. It certainly wasn’t in Lonely Planet, which doesn’t mention it at all. I am a huge fan of Art Nouveau – I’ve been known to go to Washington just to catch an exhibition, and on my last trip to France I went Nancy specifically because I had heard that it was the home of the French version. So, Takayama would have made my itinerary even if it hadn’t been a convenient stop between Shirakawa-go and the rest of the Japan Alps.
It was still raining when I left the farmhouse, but I did a better job than JAL at keeping my luggage dry. Between the built-in rain cover for my Eagle Creek backpack, and my umbrella, only my long-suffering feet got a little damp on the way to the bus stop. I was more concerned about my lungs, but happily a local woman pointed out the “No Smoking” sign to the elderly gentleman puffing away under the shelter.
The no-smoking revolution has yet to hit Japan. I actually thought I had mis-heard when I was asked whether I wanted smoking or no-smoking seating at the first restaurant I entered. I live in a tobacco state, and I haven’t been asked that question for several years. But public transport is smoke-free.
The bus ride to Takayama disappointed – mostly tunnels and mostly rain. I was glad to check into my surprisingly posh hotel (the Spa Alpina), and go out to find lunch. Eating soba noodles and beef in a very popular little place near the station, I also found a companion. An Australian woman sitting next to me at the counter said that she, too, was an Art Nouveau fan.
While I enjoyed her company, and we indulged in a beautiful (and delicious) afternoon tea together, I got a reminder that I travel better solo. I put my umbrella in the stand outside the museum to dry, and it wasn’t until the next day that I realized that when we left I had forgotten to retrieve it.
The museum was worth the loss of my (easily replaced) umbrella. Most of the major figures of the movement were represented, with plenty of glass, and rooms devoted to Majorelle (France) and Mackintosh (Glasgow). The prize exhibit was an amazing Lalique glass fountain that once graced a Paris arcade.
The next morning I was back to Japanese sights, taking a taxi to the town’s
float museum. Takayama has two big celebrations each year, which feature two- and three-story high floats. In between times four or five of the floats can be seen in the museum (the rest are in tall, narrow “garages”). Unfortunately they are behind glass, which makes photography difficult, but they are unquestionably spectacular. Probably even more so on parade, but I have an aversion to crowds… Then I took a look at the morning market, which was just packing up, and wandered through the historic section, which I thought not particularly interesting. Too many souvenir shops for my taste.
I had eaten sukiyaki for dinner (at Suzuya), even dipping the meat in raw egg. Although I draw the line at drinking raw egg neat, I have to admit that the sukiyaki tasted good. I could have done without raw egg showing up again at lunch, though, which I ate a rather up-market place next to a butcher’s shop.
I got to the bus stop (just outside the train station) in plenty of time for my ride to Matsumoto, as I wanted to be sure of a front seat, but no more than six other passengers shared the bus with me for the whole two-hour trip.